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Thursday, May 19, 2005

To Sith or Not to Sith?

I watched Star Wars 3 last night, at a midnight showing. This in and of itself is not entirely dorky, until you consider as well that I did so with a plastic lightsaber. Were there duels? You better believe there was some duelin' transpirin'. In the mean time, there is a preview before the movie for Chronicles of Narnia, proving once again that Hollywood actually wants to destroy my childhood. It would be more efficient if they just went back in time and punched me in the stomach. On the movie: it was decent. But you better believe it's going to be hailed as genius. As with Return of the King, the fact that it has characters we all know and love makes it instantly a classic in the minds of many. And it's going to gross a trillion dollars. Literally a trillion dollars. And I'm further convinced that George Lucas is actually going to turn the moon into a Deathstar.

The one thing that continually strikes me about Star Wars as a pair of trilogies, however, is this: the Sith are supposed to be a huge, evil organization that needs to be erradicated becuase it is so inherantly bad. But it doesn't really strike me as that evil. Let's go over a complete list of really bad things the "Dark Side" does in the course of the movies.

1) They manipulate the empire into war.

Okay, so they start a war to gain power. But that's not evil, per se. Especially in light of the fact that they convince other people to do it. They then kill those other people, in the end. So really it's just a matter of finding inherantly subversive individuals, goading them into showing themselves, and then destroying them. It's just like a sting, only on a galaxy-wide scale. Even if this is a little deceptive, the ends justify the means and to be perfectly fair, they unite the universe and create peace.

2) They occaisionally administer disproportionate punishment

Vader choking the admiral to death, for example. But in the vast majority of cases, this is only done as a method of court marshall. Leia is imprisoned for treason. So their justice system is evidently not completely out of whack. And sure, they blew up a planet, but it was a planet that was harboring... terrorists. Sometimes you just can't put up with that.

And that's it. They aren't terrribly "evil" in the sense that their actions are incontrovertably bad. In fact, if you recharacterize the force sides as the "light" side of the force, dealing with humanity and human emotion, and the "dark" side of the force that preaches detachment and a lack of empathy... well, it doesn't look so absurd to say that the 'light' side is bad. The "good" Jedi, after all, steal babies from their homes to train whereas the "bad" Jedi rely on consent.

The government the Sith set up is one of basic planetary rights. They don't have an overly restrictive Imperial presence. They use clones as their soldiers, meaning they don't require the sacrifice of people with families - also meaning no draft. In fact, when you look at the Empire in 4, 5, and 6 - they don't ever get around to doing anything particularly intrusive to anyone, even in the face of a rebellion. The Wookies can live like Wookies, and the Gungans can live suspiciously like Carribean Rastafarians. The only indication of civil interferrence we ever actually get is Lando talking about mining permits and so on. But the basic regulation of mining is important inasmuch as he is involved in basic commodity trade. It's possible the Empire just has antitrust laws.

The thing that makes the movie so effective, I think, is that the Sith government is so effectively portrayed as "evil" while simultaniously never earning the moniker. If they didn't wear black and talk about the "dark" side of things so often, there's nothing keeping them from being the good guys. Technically, the Emperor is a result of free political will - and Luke is thwarting the electorate by attempting to attack him. How is Palpatine different in form from Lincoln? Skywalker is the John Wilkes Booth of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Is killing so bad? The Jedi seem to do it often enough. The Republic seems to do it quite a bit. So where's the badness?

cranked out at 12:02 PM | |

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